Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Human Services published the 2011 National Blood Collection and Utilization Survey (NBCUS) Report. The results will come as no surprise to blood bankers: blood collections are down, driven by the decrease in demand and perhaps the increase in patient blood management strategies. Overall, there has been about an 8 percent decrease in whole blood and red blood cell (RBC) transfusions – echoing what ABC members have reported and similar to rates reported by European Blood Alliance members.
Experts identify the usual causes of this trend – evidence-based conservative transfusion, the recent economic crisis, anticipation of the new healthcare law implementation – driving hospitals to cut costs (i.e., “blood management”), and the emergence of new medical treatments that replace blood-intensive therapies. The US dropped from 48.8 RBCs transfused/1,000 population in 2008 to 44 RBCs/1,000 population in 2011. However, this rate remains high compared to some of our European and Canadian colleagues. In essence, that rate will likely continue to drop, and this means a major landscape change for US blood providers. Consolidation, diversification, and supply chain integration are all options on the table.
Major changes for our members mean big challenges for the association. It is not ABC’s mission to “save” any one blood center, but to collectively provide one voice and arm them with the resources that, like a digital compass, will enable them to navigate the changing landscape with much-needed precision. ABC’s incoming leadership will undoubtedly spend much of their time on ABC’s national advocacy agenda. With so many of the variables impacting blood centers originating at the federal level, ABC is best positioned to speak up on behalf of blood centers and work with partner organizations and our allies in Washington to mitigate the impact of these policies and carve a path of certainty amid uncertain times.
Providing education and information to our members, something which ABC has succeeded in historically, will remain critical and most likely intensify. However, in order to help shape the future of blood banking in the US, we will not only seek out, analyze, and relay data and information, but we will also rely on the collective brain power of our members. Now is the time to get involved, either by joining a committee, attending a meeting or workshop, or simply responding to a survey: have your voice heard. The ABC membership profile will likely change (a prediction at a recent meeting suggested “20 independent blood centers will be left in the next 10 years”) but ABC’s core values of advocacy, education, and data will not. ABC will always stand by and speak up for the independent blood program. To shape the future of blood banking – your future – I urge you to get involved.
Matt Granato, Executive Vice President, Operations